Over the past months, Canada has welcomed over 82,000 newcomers fleeing the war in Ukraine, allowing them to make a fresh start in Canada. As you plan your move to Canada from Ukraine under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, there are several things you should know before you arrive. This article provides an overview of the tasks you need to complete during your initial months, so you can settle comfortably in Canada and set yourself up for success.
In this article:
- Selecting a province and city to settle in
- Cost of living in Canada
- Support for newcomers from Ukraine under CUAET
- Finding a host family
- Your first few weeks in Canada
- Finding a job in Canada
- Finding a home in Canada
- Take care of your mental health
One of the first decisions to make as you plan your move to Canada will be where to live. Canada comprises 10 provinces and three territories, and each differs in terms of culture, career opportunities, cost of living, and lifestyle. Take the time to research Canada’s provinces and territories to identify a place you’d like to call home.
Some things to consider while choosing a province or territory are the local job market for your industry, the cost of living and your budget, commonly spoken languages, weather, and cultural diversity. For instance, Alberta is the hub for Canada’s oil and gas sector, while Saskatchewan is renowned for its agriculture and agri-food industry.
You should also decide whether you want to live in an urban or rural community. Urban centres such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary offer a thriving job market and fast-paced life. However, rural communities have their own advantages, including a lower cost of living, less competitive job markets, and a more relaxed lifestyle.
The average cost of living in Canada is considerably higher than in Ukraine but can vary significantly based on the city you live in. It’s essential to have a clear picture of the cost of living in your region as you budget for your initial months in Canada.
Accommodation rental will likely be your largest expense, but you should also account for other living expenses, including groceries, transportation, phone bills, and clothing. Use Arrive’s cost of living in Canada calculator to estimate your family’s average monthly expenses. Until you find a job in Canada, you may need to rely on your savings, so budget accordingly and try to cut down on expenses wherever possible. For instance, if you plan to stay with a host family for your first few weeks, you may be able to avoid housing expenses in the short term. While searching for permanent accommodation, consider living in the suburbs instead of the city centre to save on rental costs.
When you first arrive from Ukraine, you may need some financial and settlement support. The Canadian government and several not-for-profit organizations are offering a range of services to help you settle into your new life.
Government support for Ukrainians under CUAET
One-time direct payment from the federal government: Ukrainians moving to Canada under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel are eligible for a one-time non-taxable cash payment from the Government of Canada. Adults are entitled to $3,000 and children aged 17 or under are eligible for $1,500. To receive this financial assistance, you must be physically present in Canada, have a Canadian bank account, and fill out the application.
Emergency financial support by provincial governments: Some provinces, such as Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec, are offering temporary emergency income support to Ukrainians who are unable to afford basic living costs, such as housing and food. In Ontario, for instance, you may be eligible for up to $733 per month for a limited time.
Financial credits: You may be eligible for some financial credits once you file your first income tax return the year after you arrive in Canada. For instance, if you have children under the age of 18, you may be entitled to Canada Child Benefit payments. If your family income is below a certain threshold, you may also be eligible for quarterly Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credit payments.
Non-profit support for Ukrainians under CUAET
- Red Cross is providing reception services to Ukrainians arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport. They can also provide information and referrals to other settlement and government support services.
- YMCA chapters in some Canadian cities are mobilizing resources to provide housing and language interpretation services to Ukrainian refugees.
- COSTI is offering housing assistance, settlement services, as well as employment support to Ukrainian newcomers.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) resources and classes funded by provincial governments are available in every province and territory.
Canadians have a long-standing tradition of welcoming and supporting people fleeing conflict. Some generous Canadian families have opened their homes to temporarily host Ukrainian families moving to Canada under the CUAET. You can find a host family through organizations such as Ukraine Take Shelter, COSTI, ICanHelp.host, through Facebook groups, or your network in Canada.
It may be harder to find host families in major cities like Toronto or Vancouver, compared to suburban or rural areas, since homes in cities tend to be smaller. It may also be challenging to find a host family if you are bringing a pet or aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Setting expectations with your host family in Canada
Host families who are offering free temporary accommodation to Ukrainians are not receiving any payment, compensation, or support from the government. While you’re not expected to pay for your stay with them, it’s important to set the right expectations for your hosts to ensure both you and your host family are comfortable during your stay:
- Understand how long you can stay: Be sure to ask your hosts how long you’re welcome to stay with them. Some hosts may only be able to offer their homes for a few days, while others may be willing to let you stay for several weeks.
- Make active efforts to become independent: There’s a lot you’ll need to do in your initial days in Canada, including opening a bank account, applying for government support, looking for longer-term accommodation, and finding a job in your new city. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always ask your hosts for advice.
- Support with household chores: The work involved in managing the house and keeping things clean usually increases when more people are living there. Wherever possible, offer to help with household chores like stacking the dishwasher, vacuuming, and keeping your rooms clean, so as not to be a burden on your host family.
- Follow the house rules and local laws: Your host family may have house rules that they follow and expect you to, as well. These may include not smoking indoors, removing your footwear at the door, and recycling certain types of waste. You should also familiarize yourself with local regulations, such as wearing seatbelts in the car, following traffic signals, and more.
- Understand your responsibilities: Many hosts only provide accommodation and you’ll be responsible for purchasing your own groceries and cooking meals for yourself and your family. Alternatively, your host may offer to cook for both their family and yours. In such cases, it’s best to clarify whether you need to share the cost of groceries or other expenses with them during your stay.
Get your Social Insurance Number (SIN)
You need a Social Insurance Number to work in Canada, access government benefits, and file taxes. You can apply for a SIN online, in person at a Service Canada Centre, or by mail. Your SIN is private and should only be shared with government agencies, financial institutions, or with your employer after you’re hired.
Open a bank account
A Canadian bank account is required to manage your day-to-day finances, bring money from Ukraine, and grow your savings. You also need a Canadian bank account to apply for government financial assistance under CUAET.
Book an appointment with an RBC Newcomer Advisor to learn about bank accounts and financial products in Canada and open your bank account with RBC. You’ll need to show your IMM 1442 temporary resident status document (visitor record, work permit, or study permit) and your passport to open your account.
Canada is a credit-based economy. Having a good credit history is crucial, not just for your financial success, but also when renting a house and for some jobs. As a newcomer, you should start building your Canadian credit history as soon as possible. The easiest way to get started is to apply for a credit card and start using it to make purchases. Remember to pay off your credit card bill in full and on time, as delayed or missed payments carry high interest rates and can negatively affect your credit score.
Apply for financial assistance
As a Ukrainian moving to Canada under CUAET on a valid work permit, study permit, or temporary residence permit, you can apply for one-time financial assistance from the government once you’re in Canada and have opened a Canadian bank account.
To apply, fill out the online application for financial assistance for yourself and your dependents. You need to provide your Unique Client Identifier (UCI) number, temporary resident document number, bank account number, as well as your bank’s transit number and institution number. The funds will be sent to your bank account through direct deposit within five business days.
Register for provincial healthcare
Canada has a publicly funded healthcare system under which provincial governments cover most health-related expenses for their residents. However, free health coverage does not always extend to temporary residents, such as work permit holders, international students, and visitors.
Although some provinces have a waiting period before health coverage begins, Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador, are offering immediate healthcare coverage to all Ukrainian newcomers arriving in Canada under the CUAET, regardless of their residence status.
You may need to provide the following to apply for provincial health coverage:
- Proof of identity: your passport or provincial driver’s licence.
- Proof that you’re a resident of the province: A provincial driver’s licence, address proof or rent agreement, or utility or telephone bills. If you are being hosted by a Canadian family, they may need to accompany you to vouch that you are staying with them.
- Proof that you’re in Canada legally: your valid work or study permit.
Get a driver’s licence
You require a valid provincial driver’s licence to drive a car or motorcycle in Canada. A driver’s licence also serves as your provincial identity proof and can be used to apply for health coverage.
Each province has its own application and licensing process. Most provinces follow a graduated licensing process which involves three steps, including one knowledge test and two road tests. There may also be a waiting period between steps.
Several provinces including Ontario, British Columbia, and Alberta are crediting foreign driving experience for Ukrainians moving to Canada under the CUAET to help you get your licence sooner. If you have a Ukrainian licence and two years of driving experience, you may be able to skip the waiting time between graduated licensing steps or proceed directly to the final road test. You may also be able to use your Ukrainian driving licence to drive in Canada for 60 to 90 days (depending on provincial regulations).
Register your children for school
If you are moving to Canada with your children, enrolling them in school will be a top priority. Public schools are free in Canada, and you can contact the local school board to register your children at a school near you. Many school boards have a welcome centre for newcomers where they assess your child’s education level and language skills to decide whether they need additional support. To register your child in a public school, you require:
- Proof of your child’s age, such as their birth certificate, passport, or another identification document.
- Proof of address, such as a bank statement, rental agreement, or utility bill. If you are being hosted, proof of address of the person hosting you as well as a signed letter stating that you are staying with them.
- Immunization records of the child.
- Proof of guardianship, if you are not the parent.
Dressing for the weather
Winters in Canada are cold and snowy, with temperatures dipping to below -20 degrees Celsius in some places. It’s important to prepare for the weather, especially if you’re moving from a warmer part of Ukraine and don’t have suitable winter clothing. Dressing in layers is key to staying warm between November and March. Make sure your shopping list includes thermal innerwear, wool sweaters, a warm winter coat, gloves, scarves, winter boots, woollen socks, and hats. Children also need snowpants for school.
You can get gently used winter gear for free or at much cheaper prices at organizations like Salvation Army, Value Village, thrift shops, and local clothing banks. Some communities are organizing clothing drives to collect donated clothes for Ukrainian newcomers; check with your local organizations to find out where you can get the gear you require.
Getting restrictions removed from your CUAET visa
If you didn’t get a medical exam before moving to Canada, your CUAET open work permit may have restrictions that prevent you from working in healthcare, agriculture, domestic work, and childcare jobs.
To get job restrictions removed from your work permit, you must get a medical examination (chest x-ray and blood test) done within your first 90 days in Canada. The medical exams must be performed by a panel physician and you will have to pay a fee for these tests.
Once you receive your medical test results, you can apply for a new open work permit that doesn’t have any job restrictions. The fee for removal of restrictions has been waived for Ukrainians.
|Tip: Read our in-depth article on How to navigate your first 100 days in Canada for more information.|
Finding employment is key to becoming financially independent. The job market in Canada, as well as the recruitment process, may be different from what you’re used to back home. You can explore job listing websites and employer websites, attend job fairs, or register with employment agencies to find jobs in your industry. Here are a few things you can do to make your job search easier:
Get your credentials assessed
Most Canadian employers will verify your academic credentials before hiring you. If you completed your studies in Ukraine, you must get your Ukrainian educational credentials assessed by a designated organization, such as World Education Services (WES) or International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES), to prove their validity and equivalency to a Canadian credential.
Although most educational credential assessment (ECA) organizations offer services to newcomers who are not in Canada yet, WES is offering ECAs to Ukrainians who’ve been displaced from their country and are already in Canada. To get an ECA through the WES Gateway Program, you must be referred to WES by a designated Canadian partner organization.
Craft an impressive Canadian-style resume
Your resume from back home may not be suited for the Canadian job market, and you’ll need to modify it into a Canadian-style resume format. Ideally, your Canadian resume should be one to two pages long, listing your career objective, work experience, skills, education, and contact information. In the work experience section, focus on achievements and not just your job responsibilities.
You will need to customize your resume for each job you apply to. Most Canadian employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to shortlist resumes that closely match the job description, so include relevant keywords from the job description.
It’s a good idea to include a cover letter, even if the job listing doesn’t specifically ask for one. A well-written cover letter gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your passion for the industry or employer, cite examples of your accomplishments, and draw the recruiter’s attention.
|Tip: Read our article to learn about the three types of resume formats and get tips on crafting your resume and cover letter.|
Familiarize yourself with the networking culture
Canada has a large hidden job market, and 65 to 80 per cent of available jobs are not publicly advertised. Instead, these jobs are filled through the employers’ or recruiters’ networks.
As a newcomer, your Canadian network will be crucial for your job search. You can begin networking by connecting with professionals on LinkedIn and at networking events and can ask if they would be open to having one-on-one coffee chats. Coffee chats, or informational interviews, are a great way to nurture professional relationships and learn about the industry or various organizations. Once you build strong connections, you may be able to leverage them for your job search and ask for referrals.
Exploring survival jobs
It can take time to find a suitable job in your field. Many newcomers to Canada find survival jobs to make ends meet during their initial months while looking for opportunities in their industry. Although survival jobs are usually temporary, don’t underestimate the value of the transferable skills you can gain through this experience. For instance, if you’re working as a concierge or as a barista in a coffee shop, you may pick up valuable customer service and language skills that can be applied to higher-skilled jobs in your industry.
|Tip: Download our free guides on finding your career and networking for newcomers to Canada for tips and resources to help you start your career.|
Finding permanent accommodation is a key step in your journey to make Canada your new home. There are several housing options available for rent in Canada ranging from basement apartments, independent apartments, and condos, to semi-detached and detached homes. Before choosing a home to rent, consider the type of neighbourhood you want to live in, access to public transportation, distance from the city centre, and most importantly, your budget.
Renting your first home can be challenging since most landlords will ask for a Canadian employment letter and credit history, which most newcomers don’t have. Read our article on how to rent an apartment with no credit history or job letter in Canada to explore ways to overcome this challenge.
|Tip: Always inspect the property in person before signing a lease agreement or making a payment, to avoid scams.|
The past year has been difficult and traumatizing for many Ukrainians, and it may help you to speak with a therapist to manage any trauma, grief, or emotions you’re experiencing. In Canada, there’s no stigma around getting the mental health support you need to feel well. Connect with local organizations that offer this support and with your local Ukrainian community which may have resources in your language.
In conclusion, your initial months in Canada will lay the foundation for your future here. There’s a lot you’ll need to do during this time, from managing your finances to finding a home and landing a job. You’ll also need to adapt to cultural differences, prepare for the weather, and improve your language skills if needed. Canada’s culture is warm and welcoming, and you’ll find many people and organizations willing to help. But adapting to change is never easy, and some degree of flexibility will be important to get your life in Canada off on the right foot.